Activist discusses her experience as leader of the anti-abortion movement
Tom Naatz | Friday, October 6, 2017
The president and founder of Live Action, a non-profit committed to ending abortion, delivered the keynote lecture of Notre Dame Right to Life’s Respect Life Week on Thursday evening in the Carey Auditorium. During the lecture, titled “Transforming the Abortion Debate,” Lila Rose spoke about her work to advance the anti-abortion movement.
Rose opened her talk with an anecdote about a recent experience she had while jogging near her home in Berkeley, California.
“I was going on a jog and I was running on one of these main streets … and I jogged by a really cute looking shop,” Rose said. “I stopped in and it was a clothing store … and all the sudden I see this tote bag.”
The tote bag was a Planned Parenthood tote bag. Rose described it as listing all of the services Planned Parenthood claims to offer, and said she brought the bag-listed services that Planned Parenthood does not actually offer to the attention of the store’s clerk.
“All of the sudden, her face, her countenance changed pretty dramatically and she said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’” Rose said. “I said, ‘OK, well, I just want to understand why you’re selling it here. Did you know that Planned Parenthood is actually the largest abortion provider in the country?’ And again she just said, ‘I don’t want to talk about this right now.’ I said a quick prayer and I walked out of the shop.”
Rose said she was struck by how quickly the clerk’s demeanor changed and how unwilling the clerk was to have a conversation about abortion. She said she believed this anecdote was consistent with a trend of people closing their minds and refusing to have a conversation about abortion. Rose believes this closing comes from a sense of “woundedness” that originates in the aftermath of abortions, she said.
Though raised in a Protestant family, Rose is now a Catholic in northern California, she said. Because she was homeschooled, Rose said, there were many books in her house. She said her “aha moment” about abortion came when she found a pro-life book, “A Handbook on Abortion,” on her parents’ shelf that detailed the practice of abortion, and that an image of an aborted fetus in the book affected her deeply.
Rose said she remembered thinking, “Is this real?”
Rose was inspired by the teachings of St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who opposed abortion, she said.
“Whenever [Calcutta] gave public speeches, she would often give strong admonitions — to the United States, specifically — about abortion,” Rose said.
Rose’s organization, Live Action, carries out undercover and hidden camera investigations into Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Rose remembered her first time going undercover, at the University of California–Los Angeles health center when she was an undergraduate, to investigate why she never saw any pregnant women on campus. When she entered the facility, pretending to be pregnant, the only option given to her was to have an abortion, Rose said.
“This is why there are no pregnant women on campus,” she said. “Because of this anti-motherhood, [this] fear of our ability as women to be able to be mothers. This negative mindset about pregnancy, about motherhood, about our potential as women to be able to create life.”
Rose described the work her organization carries out in detail. She said undercover investigations of Planned Parenthood have revealed that the organization does not offer all the services it claims to offer and also adheres to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about sexual abuse. She described a Planned Parenthood event in Seattle where women were encouraged to “shout” about their abortions.
“I think behind that shout is a deep wound,” Rose said.
One of the focuses of Live Action is telling the stories of various people who have previously been involved with abortions, including women who have had the procedure, abortionists and their aides. Through the work of Live Action and the stories such people are able to tell, Rose said, “hearts and minds” are starting to change.
Ultimately, Rose said the debate surrounding abortion is about what constitutes a human life.
“As we are fighting something so horrific, we are proclaiming something so beautiful and so good,” Rose said. “And to be truly and wholly pro-life, we proclaim the goodness of life. One of the quotes that I love is from St. Augustine, and he said that people travel the world to marvel at the height of the mountains, at the circular motions of the stars, at the vast oceans. But people pass by themselves without wondering. St. Augustine of course is saying how wonderful is the human person, made in the image and likeness of God.
“How wonderful our ability, our freedom, our ability to choose, how wonderful our lives. We’re purposed for good; we’re purposed for love. And that is the heart of this battle, that’s the heart of our message.”